Friday, 23 October 2009

Bye bye Tracey bye bye

I guess I'm a bit late on this one but that's because I've been busy. The government intends to impose a 50% tax rate on those who earn over £150,000. That sounds fair to me. The people who can most afford it should be prepared to make an extra contribution in these difficult times - well permanently actually . They, after all, are the ones who benefited most from the unsustainable boom, built on debt and the housing market, during the years of Gordon Brown's Chancellorship. As it is, ordinary hardworking families are being expected to pay for the excesses of the banks during the boom years, and the bankers already have their noses back in the trough to the tune of £6 billion after the £1.4 trillion taxpayers bailout.

But, as you might expect, those who benefited most have no intention of helping out. Tracey Emin, one of those beneficiaries, has threatened to quit the UK when the Tax is brought in in April next year. According to the Sunday Times she is likely to be joined by up to 25,000 others. Well, fine, if they want to go they should go. Some of us can remember that various members of the rich and famous, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, threatened to leave if Labour were elected in 1997. None of them did that I am aware of.

Would we be worse off without these people? The simple answer is no. The capitalist so-called 'free' press have been working hard over the years to persuade us that there is a magic band of people - chief executives and entrepreneurs - who we cannot do without. If we didn't have this master race to look after us we would all be starving. This is complete nonsense, and the excuse for those at the top to take an ever larger slice of the cake.

My Granny, who died at the age of 95, could have run RBS better than Fred Goodwin. She had a deal of common sense and was very good with money. Banking isn't rocket science. You borrow money at 5% and lend it at 6%. Simple as that. A fact that escaped most of the 'masters of the universe' who brought our economy down. There are plenty of able people in our society, many of whom's talents are wasted through deprivation and unemployment. There is no need for anyone to earn over £150,00 a year - period.

The simple truth is that it is the poorest people in our society who pay the most tax. Marginal tax rates for the poor are much higher than for the better off. Let these 25,000 people go. We can do perfectly well without them. In fact our society would be fairer and better if they weren't here at all.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

New socialism: how to build a new socialism for the 21st century

If you've read previous posts on this blog you'll know that I've been blogging about how we build a socialism that will work for the 21st century just as the Communist Party tried to make socialism work in the 20th Century. In order for socialism to succeed its vital to create a viable economic alternative to capitalism, an issue I explored in a previous post. I've also looked at how a socialist government could drive lasting change in our society. here I want to further explore two key requirements for building socialism. They are:
1. capitalism cannot be replaced politically it must be overcome economically
2. socialism must empower individuals and social groups to take control of their own lives and communities. The key to this control is economic control.

Real power is economic power. If socialists want to transform society they must gain economic power. Simply winning political power in elections is not enough. Historically socialist and social democratic governments have been able to use the power of the state to ameliorate the excesses of capitalism without ever shaking its grip on society. Real power has always remained with those who own the means of production.

The traditional socialist answer to this has been to put the means of production in the hands of the state, thus ending the power of capitalists to dominate society. This didn't work in the Soviet Union - why? Because it didn't fulfill the requirement in 2. above. People weren't empowered economically. They swapped a capitalist employer for a state employer without ever gaining economic control over their own lives. They lacked the incentive to create real wealth for themselves and the communities they lived in.

To gain economic power socialists need to start creating wealth. Workers create the world's wealth. Marx's development of the idea of surplus value in Das Kapital enabled socialists to understand how capitalists expropriate that wealth for themselves leaving the crumbs from the cake of wealth creation for the rest of us. To gain economic power socialists must enable workers to create wealth and keep it for themselves. How can workers do this without becoming capitalists? The answer is mutualism. There is nothing new about this. Robert Owen advocated this 150 years ago. In the UK there are over 4000 successful co-operatives with a turnover of £27 billion. This may be small beer compared to the whole economy but it has the potential to grow.

Co-operatives are socialism in action. They are democratically controlled enterprises in which the workers own the means of production. They create wealth for workers and communities instead of for capitalists. Co-operatives tend to have a greater success rate when started up than capitalist companies. Many socialists feel uncomfortable with the notion of making profits and commercialism of any kind but this is how economies work. Profits can be used to make co-operatives grow and benefit communities. Commercialism does not have to be of the rapacious, dehumanising capitalist variety. One of the historical weaknesses of socialism is that it has failed to meet the aspiration of people to improve their material condition. Co-operatives allow workers to do just that without the need for capitalism.

Co-operatives are social enterprises . They can be not-for-profit or explicitly for community benefit. The key is that workers have control over their own economic destiny, and are able to improve their own and their community's well being. The beauty of this is that we can do it now. Their is no need to wait for a general election or a socialist government. If you want to help to bring about socialism go out and start up a co-op. Demonstrate that we can create wealth democratically and equitably without the need for capitalism. Co-operatives completely undermine many of the arguments of the right - that socialism doesn't reward individuals or encourage enterprise, and can't create wealth. Every successful co-op diminishes capitalism.

I'm not suggesting that we don't need socialist parties, or trade unions, or that we shouldn't be trying to create a socialist state. But doing those two things without creating a viable economic alternative to capitalism won't bring about a socialist society. I'm in the process of trying to set up a co-op for community benefit in Cheshire and I'll keep you up to date with developments via this blog. As a socialist I've no doubt its one of the most important and useful things I've ever attempted.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Support the Communication Workers!

The recent news that the Communication Workers Union members had voted for a strike a Royal Mail came as no surprise. Support for industrial action was strong with three quarters voting in favour.

The Government has actively been undermining the Royal Mail for some years. Unfortunately, thanks to our so-called 'free' capitalist media the truth hasn't got out. Most people think that Royal Mail is in trouble because of a decline in the sending of letters now that increasing numbers people use electronic means. The real reason is that the government has been encouraging private operators to cherry pick the most profitable parts of the Royal Mail's business. In addition, Royal Mail has been forced to pay these operators peanuts to deliver their mail for them.

If you listened to Mandelson you would think that the gaping £9 billion hole in Royal Mail's pension fund was the fault of the postal workers. But the deficit was caused by the government taking a ten year pensions holiday in which it made no contributions to the fund.

The government intend to privatise the Royal Mail. Nobody except the private operators and bureaucrats in Brussels want them to. Neo-liberal EU legislation is driving the process. Ideology disguised as economics. The end result will be a poorer service, redundancies and pay cuts for postal workers and nice fat profits for the private operators. The costs will be dumped onto the workers - as usual. The communication workers are in a tough spot but they deserve out wholehearted support.

Friday, 2 October 2009

The Party's over

The reasons for the decline of New Labour are obvious. There is no room for two main parties of the right in British politics. The Tories are the party of the right and that leaves New Labour er.. nowhere. The Blairite clones are so addicted to neo-liberalism that they will continue to push the party in a rightward direction. They have no support amongst the electorate but still hold the reigns of power in New Labour. The Labour Party conference did them little good with Brown predictably trying to recover some core support with 'half promises' about scrapping ID cards and electoral reform - too little, too late.

The only logical thing to do is split the party a get rid of the Blairite rump - they can join the Tories if they want to. Only the trade unions can make this happen but they haven't the guts to do so. It is going to take a wipe out at the general election to make that seismic shift remotely possible - otherwise the unholy alliance will continue and leave NL at the margins.

Although New Labour did the right thing by 'big government' intervention to prop up the banks a year ago they are still paralysed by their worship of the market and are unable ideologically to do anything other than return banks that were bust to the private sector thus dumping the costs on taxpayers. They still labour under the illusion that what they are doing is progressive or even social democratic.

Nice to see that Clegg and Cable effed up the Lib Dems conference even more than Brown did New Labour's. Clegg's talk about savage cuts was a spectacular own goal. If Clegg and Cable had any real nouse they would have shifted the Lib Dems decisively to the left in an attempt to wipe out NL as the opposition. But they are just as ideologically trapped in neo-liberalism as New Labour.

If the Labour Party were able to throw off its New Labour shackles and move to the left it would still have a chance of beating the Tories - whose plans for cuts will shift the country even further into the economic mire - but its too late for that. Its a bleak prospect but we can only hope that in a wipe out the Blairites will go down with the sinking New Labour ship.